Taupō is New Zealand’s biggest lake by a large margin: It’s about the size of Greater London. If you want to have a closer look, a number of operators will get you out on the water. All operators offer a similar experience, including a visit to the Māori rock carvings (see above). Accessible only by boat, these were carved in the late 1970s by Matahi Brightwell (who is also crediting with revitalizing the sport of waka ama, or outrigger canoe racing). So, they’re not old, but they are impressive. (See if you can spot the numerous small carvings, including one that is reputedly a naked depiction of one of the artist’s girlfriends.) Ultimately, the choice of who to head on the water with falls to the type of boat, how much time you have, and lastly, what you want to do on-board. (Do you want to sightsee, swim, fish, or drink like a fish?) Also keep in mind that unless you’re chartering a private boat, your experience is at the whim of whoever else is on-board. So even if you think you’ve booked a quiet sailing tour, you might unwittingly end up on a booze cruise. All the following trips leave from Taupō Marina, typically with morning, afternoon and evening departures available. They may be booked at the visitor center or harbor office.

Chris Jolly Outdoors (tel. 07/378-0623) is best if you’re pressed for time. (Simply put, its boats go the fastest.) Or, if you want to combine your boat trip with clay pigeon shooting or fishing on a private charter, it’s the operator to call. Scenic cruises to the rock carvings cost NZ$45 for adults and NZ$20 for ages 5 to 18.

How about chugging around on a replica steamboat? Ernest Kemp Cruises (tel. 07/378-9222) operates two-hour cruises multiple times a day (depending on the time of year) for NZ$40 per adult and NZ$15 children ages 5 to 15.
If you want to feel the wind in your hair, hop aboard a beautiful old yacht with Sail Barbary (tel. 07/378-5879; NZ$49 adults; NZ$29 ages 0 to 15; evening tours cost slight more but include pizza and a drink) or Sail Fearless (tel. 022/189-1847; NZ$49 adults and NZ$39 ages 3 to 14). You can even swim if you’re, in fact, fearless.

Bungy Jumping

You don’t even have to jump to be impressed by the scenery that surrounds the 47m (154-ft.) bungy platform cantilevered out over the Waikato River at AJ Hackett Taupō Bungy & Swing (tel. 07/376-5682). You’ll pay from NZ$195 for adults and NZ$145 for kids ages 10 to 14, but they must be at least 35kgs. On-site is also the North Island’s only bungee swing, which is NZ$175 adults and NZ$125 for ages 10 to 14. The company offers free pickup from accommodation. It’s open 9:30 to 4pm on weekdays and until 5pm on weekends.


Try something a bit different at Rock’ n Ropes, Karetoto Rd., Wairakei Park (tel. 0800/244-508 in NZ). If you’ve ever dreamed of being part of a circus act, this is your chance to polish up on rope walking, trapezing, rock climbing, and assorted other airborne fun. Courtesy transport to the site is available. Adventures here are reasonably priced from NZ$20 to NZ$65. It’s open daily, but advanced bookings are required.


If catching a trout floats your boat, Lake Taupō—and especially Tūrangi (known as the trout fishing capital of NZ)—is the place to be. The first baby trout were released into this lake more than 100 years ago. In the 1920s, U.S. author Zane Grey visited the Tongariro River (the most important spawning river in the region) and raved about it in his book “Tales of the Angler’s Eldorado, New Zealand.” These days you need a Taupō-issued fishing license for the lake and all its tributaries, which is good for a day or a full season. The minimum legal size is 35cm (16 in.), and the daily limit is six fish. The best river fishing is during the winter spawning runs (June–Sept), but lake fishing is good all year. There are dozens of fishing guides and charter operators, with widely varying prices, so inquire at the visitor center for recommendations.


If you want to go up in a chopper to see the Māori Rock Carvings or Huka Falls, try Heli Adventure Flights (tel. 07/374-8680). Flights start from NZ$99 per person.


Frequently voted NZ’s number one course, Wairakei Golf and Sanctuary, SH1 (tel. 07/374-8152), is a championship course with its own predator-free wildlife sanctuary. Greens fees are NZ$320 for nonaffiliated members, and you’ll need to book in advance. The Kinloch Club, 261 Kinloch Rd. (tel. 07/377-8482), is another one of New Zealand’s top courses, and greens fees are a similarly staggering NZ$235 in the winter and NZ$350 in the summer. For something more affordable, visit the Taupō Golf Club, 32 Centennial Dr. (tel. 07/378-6933), one of the very few New Zealand clubs to have two 18-hole courses: choose between the Centennial (NZ$85) or the Tauhara (NZ$60) courses.

Horseback Riding

After years living in cities, Sammii and John Ellis of Korohe Horse Treks,  29 Kepa Road RD2 Tūrangi (tel. 022/167-2112) returned home to raise their young family and to share their love of horseback riding with visitors. This is not your typical trail ride. Instead, its tour is tailored to your riding experience and confidence. Tours start at NZ$40 and are for all ages. What sets these tours apart from elsewhere is that you’ll have the opportunity to do multiple river crossing in the beautiful Waimarino, even if you’re not an experienced rider. Be sure to ask John how he tames and trains wild horses, you may be lucky enough to spot some on your ride.

Jetboating at Huka Falls, Taupo, New Zealand
(Jetboating at Huka Falls | Credit: Boyloso / Shutterstock)


Jetboats operate in a couple of spots on the Waikato River. Hukafalls Jet, Wairakei Tourist Park (tel. 07/374-8572), streaks around the base of the Huka Falls, doing 360-degree spins. It’s the only company working the falls. A 30-minute ride is NZ$29 for adults and NZ$89 for children under 15. Rapids Jet, Nga Awa Purua Rd. off Rapids Rd. (tel. 0800/727-437 in NZ, or 07/374-8066), runs upstream in the Nga Awa Purua rapids (just down from the famed Aratiatia Rapids); 35 minutes is NZ$129 for adults and NZ$75 for children 5 to 15. Both companies offer combo deals with other excursions.


Canoe & Kayak (tel] 0800/529-256 in NZ or 07/378-1003) will guide you more gently down the Waikato. Its two-hour tour includes a swim in a hot spring (NZ$74 adults and NZ$53 children). It also offers a three-hour Māori carvings tour on the lake for NZ$123 per person. Taupō Kayaking Adventures, Acacia Bay Road (tel. 027/480-1231), has a slightly larger selection of tours, with trips on the river costing NZ$90 for adults NZ$75 for ages 17 and under and to the rock carvings costing NZ$135 adults; NZ$120 children. It even has motorized kayaks available, making this an accessible activity. Both also offer canoe and kayak rentals.  

Mountain Biking

Just across from Craters Mountain Bike Park (which has 50km of mainly grade 2 and 3 trails) you’ll find FourB, 413 Huka Falls Rd. (tel. 07/374-8154), which is a one-stop shop for everything cycling related, including freedom bike hire, guided tours and shuttle services. Suitable for beginners, the Huka River Trail Guided E-Bike Tour takes you past Huka Falls and to some local secret spots, with commentary on the area’s history and geology along the way. It costs NZ$169.


Taupō is one of the handful of places in the country that you throw yourself out of a plane. If you’re into that sort of thing, contact Taupō Tandem Skydiving (tel. 07/377-0428). The selling point of skydiving here, rather than elsewhere, is the stability of the weather. (At Franz Josef, for example, weather frequently shuts flights down.) It’s the best-priced skydive in NZ and you’ll also get epic views of the lake and surrounding volcanic landscape. You can choose to jump from 18,500 ft. (NZ$399) or 12,000 ft. ($279).


There are countless walks in the area, but the most popular for visitors is the 3km (2-mile) Huka Falls Walk from Spa Park in Taupō, along the riverbank. If you continue on to Aratiatia Rapids, it will take another two hours. Another option is the hiking trail that encircles Lake Rotopounamu. The 5km (3.1-mile) loop takes about two hours to complete.

White-water Rafting

If you’ve been in NZ long enough, you’ve no doubt heard about the country’s efforts to eradicate invasive species and predators, in an effort to save the country’s indigenous birdlife. However, many traplines and areas are different to access, including those along the Tongariro River. That’s why Tongariro River Rafting, 95 Atirau Road, Tūrangi  (tel. 0800/101-024 in NZ or 07/386-6409) protects pairs of endangered whio (blue ducks) that breed along the river. Not just your average whitewater rafting journey, on the one-of-a-kind Blue Duck Experience, you’ll not only hit grade three rapids, you’ll also help check and set traplines. The tour departs in the morning, and costs NZ$194 for ages 10 and up. Afternoon departures are available on the company’s standard White Water Rafting excursions (adults NZ$129, kids 10 and up NZ$109).

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.